Death by Design

Full-Length Play, Comedy  /  4f, 4m

What happens when you mix the brilliant wit of Noël Coward with the intricate plotting of Agatha Christie? Set during a weekend in an English country manor in 1932, Death by Designis a delightful and mysterious “mash-up” of two of the greatest English writers of all time.   

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    4f, 4m
  • Duration
    120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre
    Farce, Adaptations (Literature), Mystery/Thriller
  • Suggested Use
    Suggested Use
    • Cutting Approved for Competition
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    Appropriate for all audiences, Adult, Senior, Teen (Age 14 - 18)
Licence details
  • Minimum Fee: £55 per performance plus VAT when applicable.



What happens when you mix the brilliant wit of Noël Coward with the intricate plotting of Agatha Christie? Set during a weekend in an English country manor in 1932, Death by Design is a delightful and mysterious “mash-up” of two of the greatest English writers of all time. Edward Bennett, a playwright, and his wife, Sorel Bennett, an actress, flee London and head to Cookham after a disastrous opening night. But various guests arrive unexpectedly – a conservative politician, a fiery socialist, a nearsighted ingénue, a zany modern dancer – each with a long-held secret. When one of the guests is murdered, it’s left to Bridgit, the feisty Irish maid with a macabre interest in homicide, to solve the crime. Death by Design is more than homage – it’s a new classic. 

Death by Design was originally produced at Houston Family Arts Center, Houston, Texas (Bob Clark, Executive Director; Teri Clark, Artistic Director; Mario Garza, Producing Director) September 9 - 11, 2011, under the direction of Lisa Garza.
Cast Attributes
  • Non-Traditional casting
Performing Groups
  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Dinner Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Reader's Theatre
  • Large Stage
  • Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups
BRIDGIT - the maid; Irish, crabby, warm-hearted, fifties
JACK - the chauffer; Cockney, charming, clever, twenties
EDWARD BENNETT - the playwright; urbane, vain, thirties/forties
SOREL BENNETT - the actress; glamorous, daffy, thirties/forties
WALTER PEARCE - the politician; stiff, conservative, thirties/forties
ERIC - the radical; emphatic, fiery, twenties
VICTORIA VAN ROTH - the Bohemian; intense, artistic, any age
ALICE - the visitor; sweet, shy, twenties
  • Time Period 1930s
  • Features Period Costumes
  • Additional Features Physical Comedy
  • Duration 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • Cautions
    • Gun Shots


 Death by Design is a wonderful new comedy, peopled with vivid, fascinating characters. It merges wit, sophistication and even pratfalls into a medley of humor and fun. Playwright Rob Urbinati must have had as much fun writing this comedy as the audience has in savoring it.  - Houston Press

Rob Urbinati’s Death by Design is a wildly funny comedy that’s exquisitely crafted in the style of British playwright Noel Coward with a major added fillip: an Agatha Christie-style whodunit murder mystery.

The protagonists in Death by Design comprise a sophisticated and arrogant playwright and his air-headed actress wife. Their latest play has just been panned by the London critics, and the pair retreat to their country estate to lick their wounds and continue their psychological warfare. They’re quickly joined by a host of guests, some invited, some not. Soon one of the guests lies lifeless on a sofa. All the characters have a motive for murder, and the mystery is solved by an impudent, sharp-tongued housemaid in cahoots with a young libertine chauffeur.

I’m a big fan of Noel Coward, England’s greatest comic playwright of the 20th century. Death by Design is intentionally written in Coward’s style, complete with interesting, over-drawn characters, brilliant comic repartee and wonderfully incisive social commentary. Plus there’s the Agatha Christie element: a country estate full of mysterious guests and isolated by a snipped telephone wire.

Death by Design is definitely a major must-see. - The Forecaster

Edward and Sorel Bennett have had yet another row, in the fallout of their latest London opening, and have chased each other to their country house, to the irritated surprise of their maid and chauffeur. They proceed to torment each other so creatively and with such schizophrenic relish that one might wonder whether Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? had been added into the mash-up cocktail. The lovebirds are soon joined by a cacophony of guests with interestingly constellated mutual resentments, including conservative politician Walter Pearce, leftist radical Eric, and bohemian artist/dancer Victoria Van Roth. By the time there's a body to contend with, everyone in residence has expressed multiple murderous motives.


  • Musical StyleN/A (Not a musical)
  • Vocal DemandsN/A (Not a musical)
  • Chorus SizeN/A (Not a musical)



Available Formats:


Rob Urbinati

Rob Urbinati is a freelance playwright, screenwriter, book author and theater director based in New York City. He is also director of new play development at Queens Theatre.

Rob was born in Framingham, Massachusetts and currently resides in New York City. He received a BA from ...

View full profile


Now Playing

Community Experiences